Employee representatives of the Guild focused on non-economic issues Tuesday in Pleasanton as talks continued.
East Bay employees demand equal treatment and an end to disparity of treatment between South Bay and East Bay units. As stated previously, despite business climate difficulties, employees insist that a high-quality regional news operation demands that colleagues work together, and no one should have to accept second-class status while doing first-class work.
Although money differences are most critical, at the company’s request, employees agreed to point out several examples of contract disparities – many of which can be handled at little or no cost to the Company.
One example, as Guild representative Carl Hall noted, was byline protections, which include the right to see negative mentions of one’s name and the text of letters to the editor in advance of publication, as well as a requirement that you be notified of editors’ changes to copy. “It’s a fundamental property right, your name, your credit,” Hall said. “In the online world, it’s a commercial, career asset.”
Another example was contract language around Internet use and outside activities. Unit chair George Kelly acknowledged the changed terrain of newsgathering, the oncoming Digital First-driven initiative to expand audience engagement, and John Paton’s guidance on freedom. “I’m afraid the language here does not allow workers to engage freely with members of the community,” Kelly said. “We are needlessly holding ourselves apart from an issue.” Hall clarified that greater transparencyand company concerns about use of that MediaNews identity are covered in the Mercury News contract, while the East Bay contract has an overly broad paternalistic language “where we could have the same rules and coverage.”
Unit member Danny Willis noted that the East Bay contract language was so broadly written that something as innocuous as rooting interesting in a sports team could be considered grounds for discipline or worse) causing a concern, leading to one Company representative’s suggestion about addressing these issues through revisitation of the ethics code.
After a brief break, Willis also spoke about transfers. Recalling his own near-transfer to Hayward, he drew a connection between it and the hard choices employees must make about living choice, transportation and balancing free time. “For most people it’s unnecessary, unless you’re covering a specific beat,” Willis said. “You could be in the coffee shop. So much of what we can do can be done online, so why transfer people? I think the South Bay contract addresses that problem very well.”
Unit member Karl Mondon raised several key issues: the East Bay’s 40-hour work week where employees not only get paid less, but work a half an hour more per day than South Bay colleagues); his concerns about a intern policy with more site choice and flexibility, a consistent numbers and payment above the minimum wage, and, lastly, distinctions between casual, part time and temporary work that extend beyond the juggling of re-building the copy desk schedule in the wake of recent layoffs and veer toward exploitation. “We’ve heard of instances where employees are almost full time,” Mondon said. “I raise a concern there – you’d want us all to be casuals.”
Hall then listed other issues that could fall under a non-economic umbrella, including leaves of absence, Guild leave, rehire rights, management rights causes, pay system structures, expense issues, split days off, grievance procedures, and anniversary days.
Company representative Marshall Anstandig shared his response, focusing on what he described as the “legacy” economic issues in the South Bay contract not responsive to the economic downturn or newspapers’ declining fortunes. “You’ve raised some interesting points that are worthwhile of our consideration,” Anstandig said. “You may not like our proposals, but it puts things into context as we see it.”
Company representative Jim Janiga closed: “The best use of our time is to set up the next date so we can reflect on what you proposed, deliberate on our options and come up with a substantive response.”
Negotiations resume Thursday, July 19 in Pleasanton.